Traditionally, Cupid is depicted as a cute little cherub wielding a bow and arrow, but in February, I begin to feel that a semi-automatic rifle would be more appropriate.
In case you've missed the flood of Zales, Kay Jewelers, and 1-800-Flowers ads that have been inundating your regularly scheduled programming; or you haven't seen Couples Week on Wheel of Fortune; or--like all three contestants--you missed the painfully easy Final Jeopardy question last night... the most dreaded day of the year for millions of Americans is fast approaching.
(If I knew how to make that font drip with blood, I would.)
My attitude toward V-Day has varied greatly over the years.
In Elementary School, it brought the excitement of any other holiday. The night before was spent painstakingly selecting the appropriate conversation hearts to enclose with each Thundercats or Gummi Bears themed valentine--"Be Mine" for the secret crush, "My Pal" for the smelly kid. The day itself was spent in eager anticipation of that one hour at the end of the day when educational pursuits would be abandoned and we would bite the ends off of generic twizzlers and use them as straws to suck up sugary fruit punch while feverishly tearing open tiny envelope after tiny envelope, quietly attempting to decode our crush's intentions from Optimus Prime declaring "You're MINE, Valentine!"
In Middle School, the stakes became higher. No longer were we required to give a valentine to every member of our class--500 cards per person would put far too great a strain on the selection at the local CVS--yet my friends and I still took joy in passing what were now deemed "kiddie" cards among one another. Yet a new and unprecedented danger was lurking beneath the surface of this previously loved day. Lurking, to be specific, just inside the doors to the cafeteria.
The Annual Carnation Sale.
White for friendship, Pink for "like," and Red for (gulp) Love, lunch time was transformed from the break between Social Studies and Chorus to a veritable battleground for adolescent girls. In 7th grade, I feigned joy as my friends arrived to our table one by one, bearing the tokens of their admirers. My hands and locker remained painfully empty, yet I persevered, feigning disinterest and supressing the urge to simply buy one for myself so that, to the outside eye, it would appear as though somebody thought I was worthy of a $1 flower.
Come 8th grade, however, the tide had shifted. I had a boyfriend! And not just any boyfriend, but a first love. After all, this was the boy who had left a painstakingly drawn Sonic the Hedgehog bearing a giant red balloon and proclaiming "I LOVE YOU" in my locker, on a normal day! Surely on Valentine's Day, of all days, he would come through!
I dashed to my locker between every class, feverishly checking to see if he'd been there, risking being late for class for the simple opportunity of walking through that door bearing a carnation and letting the whole world see that, at last, I was loved.
Toward the end of the day, it happened. There they were. Three white carnations. Refusing to succumb to panic because white meant "friendship," I simply assumed that white had been all that was left. Besides, I had flowers! Who cared about a stupid colour?
Giddy with the heady rush of finally being someone's Valentine, I caught up with him at the end of the day and breathlessly thanked him for the flowers.
"Oh yeah," he replied nonchalantly. "Some girl gave them to me and I didn't want them, so I gave them to you."
Here my friends are getting engraved ID bracelets (oh, my 8th grade dream!) and mix CDs and I get fucking second-hand flowers?!?!?
Needless to say, my attitude toward the holiday shifted a bit after that.
Enter High School. Single once more, I took to wearing black and openly announcing my detestation of the holiday, decrying the rampant commercialization that it had come to symbolize and self-righteously announcing that I, for one, did not need some special day to tell me to appreciate the ones I loved.
When I started dating High School Boyfriend it worked out well, as he too was a rabid decryer of the day--though I'm fairly certain his attitude had less to do with commercialization and more to do with it being the day he'd lost his virginity to his ex--and we banded together to pretend it didn't even exist. Though, of course, we always spent it together, finding solidarity through mutual disdain.
Eventually, of course, I realized we were being silly, and once we had gone our separate ways I decided that, while still overly commercialized, perhaps Valentine's Day wasn't entirely evil. Granted I was always single, and during the year I lived abroad my friend and I began a tradition of gathering single girls to go sex toy shopping on Valentine's Day.
My senior year of college I was once again a member of the coupled class on Valentine's Day. Not wanting to make a huge deal of it, I offered to cook The Guitarist dinner at my apartment, my roommate having taken some girl out for a fancy dinner in Washington DC. We hadn't been dating long and I wasn't expecting, well, anything, so when he showed up at my apartment bearing a single long-stemmed rose that he had purchased from a guy on the corner on the way over, well, I was genuinely touched. For all of his faults--and believe me, he had plenty--he was always great with the little things, like buying me Cadbury eggs when he found them out of season, just because he knew I loved them. Those are the sorts of caring gestures that really get me, and which so few men seem to understand.
That was the last time that I was coupled on Valentine's Day. In the years that followed my attitude has varied, but if I'm being honest, generally lingered on the bitter end of the spectrum.
Last year I decided to change that, and simply STOP being "Bitter Single Girl." I bought myself chocolate and flowers, wished everyone I saw a Happy Valentine's Day, and just generally enjoyed the hell out of the day. And it felt good.
And now here we are, with yet another Valentine's Day looming on the horizon, and I find myself stuck in yet another conundrum.
We haven't been dating long--even less than I'd been dating The Guitarist--and everything is, thus far, very mellow and undefined in nature. So... am I allowed to ask him to make plans on Valentine's Day? Should I wait and see if he brings it up? Perhaps more importantly, is he a Valentine's Day lover or hater? If he's a hater, and I bring it up, does that make me look like needy girl who expects dozens of roses and caviar and jewelry and string quartets and and and...
I, for one, exist firmly in a grey area. I'm not against the idea of Valentine's Day, but I do think it is overly commercial and puts a ridiculous amount of pressure on both the coupled and un-coupled alike.
I'm not one of those girls who expects the world to be laid at her feet every February 14th--I learned the hard way at age 14 that such hopes can only lead to painful disappointments--but by the same token I wouldn't mind spending it with a guy whose company I enjoy. Especially considering that, for the first time in ages, I actually have one on hand.
But, after only a few weeks of dating, am I allowed to ask for that? Or is it too much? I personally don't think so, but as a culture we've laid such weight on what should be such a simple day, that I worry...
And so I labor beneath the sensation that I'm standing before a firing squad, blindfold and cigarette in place, wondering just what the hell I should do.
Do I stand passively against the wall and hope it will be over with quickly? Or do I rush in, guns blazing, knowing that, at the very least, I tried?
I, for one, haven't got a clue.
And so it continues...
Happy Valentine's Day.